The Texas attorney general has been indicted for allegedly duping investors in a tech startup, and the agriculture commissioner reportedly used tax dollars to travel to obtain a so-called Jesus shot supposedly offering long-term relief from pain.
So far, fellow Republicans are all but ignoring the troubles.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has been charged with two felonies, and Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who last year unapologetically shared a Facebook post that suggested using a nuclear bomb on the Muslim population, coasted to election in 2014 as part of a new slate of GOP leaders. Other Republicans who won that year included Gov. Greg Abbott and Land Commissioner George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush.
Democrats, who have called on Paxton to resign, lament what they call the pitfall of a politically one-sided state. Republicans seem content to stay quiet.
“What we’ve seen is rather endorsement by silence,” said Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the state’s bedraggled Democratic Party, which has not won a statewide election since 1994. “It’s disappointing that the Republican Party isn’t willing to speak out when it sees bad behavior on behalf of their statewide officials.”
Abbott, who spent more than a decade in Paxton’s job before becoming governor, has repeatedly declined to comment on his successor beyond saying last summer that the legal process needed to “work its course.”
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is the latest to heap problems on Paxton, accusing him of investor fraud in a federal lawsuit filed Monday. That’s on top of two felony counts of securities fraud filed in Texas, where prosecutors say Paxton coaxed investors in 2011 into putting money into a new company called Servergy Inc. without revealing he was being paid by the data-server startup.
SEC investigators say Paxton, then a state legislator, betrayed friends and used-high pressure tactics to seal one deal while raising $840,000. Paxton claimed he tried buying his own stock in Servergy, according to the lawsuit, but said the company founder balked.
“God doesn’t want me to take your money,” Paxton claimed he was told, according the lawsuit.
Paxton, who has been under indictment for most of his 16 months in office, has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges and says he will not resign.
Miller’s troubles emerged in March, when a Houston Chronicle investigation revealed that he used taxpayer money to travel to Oklahoma last year to apparently receive the “Jesus shot” – an anti-inflammatory injection that is supposed to reduce chronic pain.
The injection reportedly costs $300 and is available only through Dr. John Michael Lonergan, who lost his medical license in Ohio after being convicted of felony health care and mail fraud and tax evasion. Miller reimbursed the state more than $1,000 for the trip after being confronted by the newspaper’s findings. He has declined, however, to discuss whether he got the injection during the trip.
Miller, a rodeo calf-roper who lavishly decorated his state office in cowhide rugs and steer horns, also reimbursed the state another $1,000 in travel costs after competing in a rodeo in Mississippi and winning $880, according to the Houston Chronicle. Revelations about that trip led Miller’s chief press secretary to resign Monday over what she described as a lack of communication in the agency.
Miller’s office did not return a phone message Tuesday from The Associated Press.
At least one former GOP state official said the lack of competitive elections in Texas has made current officeholders less responsive to voters and more focused on not alienating their base.
“They’re good guys, but they’ve been kind of leading with their chins,” said Jerry Patterson, who led the Texas General Land Office for more than a decade before being replaced by Bush. “Whether the allegations are right or wrong, it does negatively impact the Republican brand.”